Dear Dr. Putt:
I have problem putting that I can never figure out. How do you line up a putt. I can read the green. The problem is I never hit where I'm aiming. I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong and it is very frustrating.
My Dear Bob:
Your question raises two of the most fundamental and most closely related issues in putting -- aim and execution. One must be able to aim where one intends (this includes all the aspects of alignment - the putter and the entire body - especially shoulders and feet). Then one must be able to putt the ball along the intended line of aim. Alas, most players of the game never achieve a consistently accurate aim, so they have no way of knowing whether they are properly executing the putt along the intended line. To be successful in putting, one must be able to aim the ball where one intends and then putt the ball along that line.
Let us start with aim, for that is a logically necessary first step - without accurate aim, all else is an exercise in futility. If you have successfully read the green, you know where you want to aim. The question is how. Dr. Putt has several suggestions here.
Mark the ball with a short line and then place it carefully so that line points along the intended line of aim. Indeed, Tiger and many, if not most other professionals do this. Dr. Putt has written a separate letter on just this subject - see “marking the ball for better aim."
Note that when you are reading the green and when you are placing the marked ball, you do it from the rear. That is an important insight with many ramifications. Ideally, we would putt from the rear as well, but the equipment and rules do not really allow for that. But we can at least move ourselves in that direction. Jack Nicklaus set himself up over putts so that his head was slightly behind the ball. Harvey Penick advises in his little Red Book to aim from the rear in putting. One aims a rifle from the rear. One shoots a basketball from the rear - you will never see someone shooting foul shots with a hook shot! So establish the line standing behind the ball and putt with your head as far behind the ball as is practically possible. (Placing the ball in front of your lead big toe is about the practical limit.)
Make sure your eyes are over the intended line of the putt (extended through and behind the ball). The fact is that you will see the line much more accurately if you place your eyes consistently in this position. Drop a ball from between your eyes after you assume your putting stance. It should fall on the extension of the intended line of the putt behind the ball.
Set your putter blade while squatting behind the ball so that it is aimed properly and then assume your stance in relation to the putter head. Betsy King, the LPGA Hall of Famer, does this.
As an alternative to the line on the ball or setting the blade, pick a blade of grass about 6 inches ahead of the ball to aim at as an intermediate target. Some find this an easier target at which to aim than the hole, because the blade of grass is in ones peripheral vision while the hole is not.
All of these techniques can help in proper aim. Unfortunately, poor putting technique can cause you to think that your aim is improper. Remember the interactive effect here. Even if you are properly aimed, you may think you are improperly aimed if you do not putt it where you aim it.
If you employ the techniques above, your aim will certainly improve. Then you should work on execution -- your putting mechanics. The idea here is to make a straight-line stroke in which the putter blade stays on the intended line of aim as long as possible. You must also strike the ball on the so-called sweet spot on the blade. (This could be the subject of another treatise!) The easiest way to accomplish all this is with a pendulum stroke with no hand or wrist action. Keep your hands directly below your shoulders as much as possible when you address the ball. This will help keep the stroke along a straight line.
In sum, both aim and execution are essential. Fortunately, if you will pardon a brief plug, the EOB aiming and alignment device for practice and play and the 5 step putting system are designed specifically to address these two critical problems. Indeed, the motto of the device and system is “aim it where you want it and putt it where you aim it.” Dr. Putt guarantees it will help you in both areas. So please consider giving it a try!
In any case, Dr. Putt thanks you for your important question. Please let him know how you are progressing!
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